Playing junior tennis at a high level is a full-time job, not just for the athlete, but for their parents as well. According to Frank Giampaolo, world renowned coach, author, speaker, and founder of The Tennis Parents Workshops, one of the keys to maximizing potential is proper parent education on how to act in a supportive role of a child’s tennis career.
Giampaolo fell in love with tennis at a young age, largely due to a fascination with the game’s complexity. Due to a number of factors, a playing career in tennis simply was not feasible, but that did not stop him from pursuing a career in coaching.
While playing in college, Giampaolo began teaching junior summer camps and received his big break when he was invited onto the teaching staff at the famous Vic Braden Tennis College / Coto Sports Research Center in Southern California.
Since then, Giampaolo has honed his coaching skills and has guided athletes to over 100 national titles. However, he is perhaps most well-known as an award-winning author and the creator of the Tennis Parents Workshops.
Giampaolo established the workshop in 1998 based on his experiences with his athletes’ parents, including personal struggles with his nationally-ranked stepdaughter.
“I realized early-on that someone had to step up and educate the parents of competitive tennis players about the developmental process,” said Giampaolo. “Combined with the fact that I too was a tennis parent. My step daughter had a nice junior career. She reached #1 Nationally and Sectionally (California), won 10 Gold balls, played the US Open by age 15 and got a full ride to USC.”
Nonetheless, every single parenting situation is unique, so how is Giampaolo able to conduct workshops that are applicable to each athlete? Customization. “I begin with a 300-Point Evaluation booklet. I teach both the parents and the athletes to analyze the athlete’s game based on their competence in both hardware and software, similar to a functioning computer,” he explained.
“Computers need both hardware and software to work seamlessly together, so do athletes,” said Giampaolo. “The hardware of a tennis athlete includes strokes and athleticism. The software includes mental and emotional skill sets. In my experience, all four major components have to be developed simultaneously.”
Through many years of conducting workshops, Giampaolo has encountered a number of flaws parents must be cognizant of of when raising their tennis player. Perhaps the most glaring mistake is not training a deliberate, customized developmental plan.
“Athletes have unique cerebral designs as well as body types which factor into maximizing potential at the quickest rate,” Giampaolo added. “Regardless of an athlete’s desired level of play (social, high school, college, or professional), highlighting an athlete’s dominate skill set with a deliberate plan builds confidence and self-esteem, which are important life skills. The old school, ensemble line methods are incredibly out dated.”
Unfortunately, parental miscues have the potential to be fatal to a child’s tennis career, which is why Giampaolo has devoted much of his life to remedying these issues. More often than not, young children drop out of tennis at an alarming rate due to a lack of parent education.
“In my opinion, the 10 & Under campaign is doing a nice job bringing athletes into our sport. Sadly, approximately 70% of those kids drop out. Why? Based on my travels and communication with coaches and young athletes throughout the world, I’ve found the primary reason is due to the tennis parents uneducated about the developmental process. If the parents understood the developmental process they would more likely place less pressure on the athlete and/or agree upon a developmental journey,” explained Giampaolo.
Everyone can agree that tennis teaches children many vital life skills, which is why it is imperative that we find a solution to mitigating the staggering dropout rate. “A healthy tennis journey develops resilient confident adults- regardless of their level of competition,” said Giampaolo. “Not every athlete will or desires to be a professional. There is a lot of room in the game for all levels.”
In addition to his workshops, Giampaolo has written a number of books to extend his reach to tennis parents across the globe. One of his most unique works, Raising Athletic Royalty, was created to help lift the spirits of junior athletes while navigating the challenging waters of high-level tennis.
“I wrote Raising Athletic Royalty because I realized that most parents didn’t have a proactive, optimistic script to use as they motivated their children. They simply regurgitated the same old outdated, pessimistic info that their parents, and their parents before them recited,” Giampaolo elaborated.
“This brings back a very special conversation I had with my buddy Steve Johnson Sr., may he rest in peace. He shared with me that even if a coach prepares the warrior 100 percent correctly for competition, an uneducated tennis parent can (and most likely will) sabotage the athlete’s chances of playing at their peak performance level by turning their warriors into a worriers.”
Despite the importance of the parental role, young junior players must also take ownership of their own preparation and performance. In an effort to help athletes achieve peak athletic performance, Giampaolo crafted yet another book entitled Emotional Aptitude in Sports, which explains why poor emotions can sabotage an athlete under pressure.
“The challenges begin with understanding why solid athletes lose and then to find and apply the solutions to address their issues,” said Giampaolo. “For example, I designed a Cause of Error Match Chart for parents, coaches and students to use while watching athletes compete. It identifies whether the mistake was caused by poor form (strokes), poor movement & spacing (athleticism), reckless shot selection (mental) or performance anxiety issues (emotional).”
Undoubtedly, high-level tennis begins with a functional, team-oriented relationship between parent, coach and athlete. Each member of the team must understand their role in order for optimum performance to be achieved.
“The athlete’s actions have to match their goals. Ideally, the player and the parents should agree on both short term and long term goals. The level of desired competition will determine the degree of training and sport commitment,” explained Giampaolo.
While each every athlete has different goals, it is imperative to establish those goals to develop a plan for the road ahead. “A great start is the book titled The Tennis Parent’s Bible. It’s everything you didn’t even know…you needed to know,” said Giampaolo.
Frank Giampaolo offers private consultations with his unique customized evaluation sessions. Go to www.Maximizingtennispotential.com for details.